Monday, April 29, 2013

books

A few reviews of what I've been reading lately. Some are awesome, and some stink to high heavens.

For starters, I finished the rest of the Beautiful Creatures series, and deem it above-average easy-reading.

 

On a 5-star scale, I'd give Beautiful Darkness only 2 stars because I found it annoying in the same way the second book in the Twilight series was annoying. One of our main characters is missing-in-action for a majority of the book, and we've got a fill-in romantic interest. Verrrry reminiscent of New Moon

The second and third books redeem the series, though, and I'd give them each four stars. I found the plots to be creative and engaging. It's still a young adult or teen series, though, and the main characters are all in high school, so you have to be prepared to go back to your shameful Twilight days if you're going to read these. Plus, we do have a similar "I might kill you if we have sex" situation thing happening in this series, which is a little coincidental in my opinion, what with the whole Edward/Bella situash. When the series ends, the kids are still high-schoolers, so it's your guess as to how this will resolve itself. 


Now for Mr. Peanut. I wish I knew the source that led me to read this novel, because if I remembered where I heard that this was a good book, I would never trust that source again. 

In fairness, Mr. Peanut is well-written. It's lengthy. It's thoughtful. But I really hated it. A lot. 

The book follows three crappy relationships that all seem to be failing for one reason or another. The first relationship is the most interesting one, in that the woman is dead and her husband is suspected of killing her. You have to wait until literally the last page of the book to find out what really happened, and I don't know how you'll feel about it, but I felt hugely tricked and disappointed. I think it was a really cheap writer's ploy.

In the book, all of the women are insecure and borderline insane. They're overly-demanding and irritating. I wondered if Ross hates women at several points in the novel. Then I figured, well, the men are not exactly gems, either, but there's a sort of romanticizing happening about their shitty way of dealing with things. Ross spends an exhausting amount of time dissecting the ins and outs of these relationships and I ended up bored several times. 

The other (and probably most important) reason I hated this book is due to the "Mr. Peanut" part of it. I had no idea why it was called Mr. Peanut, and I can't tell you or it will ruin the whole thing. But suffice to say that if I'd known I would have avoided it like the plague. I have a personal abhorrence for the topic and would never read a book containing even hints of it. That said, others are unlikely to find it nearly as offensive as I did. Personal life experiences being different and such. 



All right. Now the best for last. This is one of the best books I've read in a while. Five out of five stars, all the way. It's an epic novel following the life of Pak Jun Do in North Korea. 

I honestly don't even know how to begin explaining this novel. Even reading the jacket description, I was like, "meh." What really got me to read it was that it just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Someone is obviously doing something right if they've won a Pulitzer. 

I guess I'll just say that the most fascinating part of this novel, for me, was all of the details of everyday life in North Korea. I kept thinking to myself: There is no way this is how it really is, especially not modern day. Johnson explains a pretty terrifying country, where unimaginable things happen every day to innocent citizens, all in the name of serving the greater good. I got to the end of the novel and then read an interview with the author, and holy smokes, you guys. The research he did? Extensive. He even somehow managed to visit NK, which is obviously rare. The entire book is based on fact. Just astounding and really revealing, given the U.S.' current relations with that country. 

Now, I know I still haven't sold this book, and it probably sounds horrible and depressing, but it's not! It's fascinating and triumphant and suspenseful. Just truly wonderful. 


What are you reading right now? What are your five-star, must-reads? I'm currently reading The Explorer, by James Smythe, a sci-fi thriller. It's shaping up to be really interesting so far! 




8 comments:

  1. Right now, I'm reading The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, which is really interesting (and makes me want to run out to all of the used bookstores in the area). It's a true story about a man who stole rare books and the book dealer who dedicated himself to catching him and others like him. The psychology behind why this guy stole books is pretty fascinating as well.

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  2. Excellent! I added it to my "to read" list. The description had me at "In the tradition of 'The Orchid Thief'" ... I really loved that book (and the movie).

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  3. I'm reading The Sparrow right now and really enjoying it! I can't remember - was that a recommendation from you? I've been meaning to check your archives to see what you thought of it. Just finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie...meh...and The Dog Stars. Really like Dog Stars because it was one of the few post apocolyptic stories that I could actually imagine really happening. Like 5 years from now. Which was waaaaaay creepy.

    I had the same reaction to The Orphan Master's Son when I heard the interview on NPR...North Korea...meh. But, based on your review, I might check it out.

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    1. Yes! I did recommend The Sparrow. That was a good one. I've been thinking I need to read the sequel. Loved Dog Stars, and you're totally right. Creepy 'cause it could totally happen!

      The main character in The Orphan Master's Son is really great, too. It's a long book but a fast read because it keeps you so engaged.

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  4. Now I want to read the Orphan Master's Son! But I have an entire shelf of unread books. Must stop ordering books online!

    You're killing me with the Mr. Peanut thing. I'm dying to know what it is. Can I look it up on Urban Dictionary?

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    1. It's hard to get to all of the "must read" books!

      Ok. Because I assume no one who reads this is going to read Mr. Peanut since I slammed it so hard -- Mr. Peanut is what one of the women names her three miscarried babies. And the way the author goes about treating the topic was just so ... ick.

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  5. I'm #79 on the library's waitlist for "The Orphan Master's Son". IT WILL BE YEARS BEFORE I GET TO READ IT. I may die. Although I've been reading "Bossypants" for, like, three weeks, so clearly I'm basically illiterate and don't deserve nice books.

    So glad you answered the Mr. Peanut thing. Of course I immediately Googled it but got a hankering for peanuts and had to stop looking.

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    1. Well. It'll be worth the wait! You know, in honesty, I didn't like Bossypants much. Which feels like a traitorous thing to say.

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